From Vote to World View

In the aftermath of San Antonio’s Women’s Ordination (WO) “No vote” there has been – unsurprisingly – considerable reaction. Emotion, speculation, criticism, defense – words have spilled out in prodigious quantity. Almost everything I have read concentrates on specific context, that is: women, ordination and church governance. Some attempts have been made to propose underlying rationale – mostly relating to cultural effects on the delegates’ mindset. There has also been a lot of argumentative “clutter” – questionable logic, back and forth attacks along the liberal-conservative divide, and the endemic talking past one other.

What I wish to do in this essay is first a modest attempt at some de-cluttering and then try to move from considering the specific context to looking for some understanding at the level of underlying World Views. Given the current intensely polarized climate, any hope of progress in such an endeavor is very problematic. The Spectrum website is considered, by many SDA conservatives, to be heterodox and hostile. Thus an article like this might be viewed, likely by both sides, as non-neutral. A pro-WO reader would expect confirmation of their position; an anti-WO reader would be on high-alert – seeking opportunity for rejection of any disturbing ideas presented. Such insulating filters are not surprising. People somewhat generally resist contrarian input. Couple this with a number of pro-WO supporters whose disappointment has morphed into bashing, and we have a difficult climate in which to investigate underlying world views dispassionately.

Some de-cluttering

· Distinction without a difference

There are two categories of argument I’ve seen employed in service of the Male Headship doctrine – and thus in support of a No vote. One is exegetical and the other is natural. Setting aside the exegetical for the moment I’ve been singularly unimpressed with the reasons offered for why women are disqualified for ordination due to something related to a woman’s nature. It is uncontroversial that men and women are different in some respects. Men tend to be stronger on average, women bear children, etc. But none of the differences I’ve seen mentioned have anything that plausibly explains why a woman cannot fulfill tasks currently denied to them because ordination is withheld. This is a major problem, I suggest, for a No voter to consider. It is painfully clear that there is not a lot of difference, pragmatically, between commissioned and ordained. The most significant difference is that commissioning is insufficient to be considered for some administrative positions, such as a conference president. But where, in examining the natural differences between a man and a woman, can there be found justification for this sort of disqualification? I have never seen anyone really develop a solid argument to answer this. And if it cannot be done one ought to legitimately ask what then might God’s reasons be for disqualification? It seems that a No adherent wants to declare that there is an important distinction that should be made with regard to ordination but cannot come up with any plausible differences that would explain why God is making the distinction. Without such differences God’s presumed distinction appears arbitrary.

What is God seeing that we cannot? At this point I frequently hear a major pushback (which I will delve into, below) which declares, in effect, that such a question is invalid. We are not God and it’s none of our business speculating. This strikes me as a very dangerous view. Why shouldn’t we humans be able to discern any natural reasons for disqualification, if there are any? And, pragmatically, a potential convert is not likely to accept these assumptions. So a God like this is surely going to appear arbitrary at best and a misogynist at worst. It seems to me we ought to be trying to find nature-based disqualifications that make sense if we want to evangelize someone who generally believes in equality.

· Why the intensity of a pro-WO position?

The reason is obvious to me and has been clearly articulated – the issue is perceived to be a moral one. In the minds of those favoring women’s ordination this is about equality. That is why the word “discrimination” is frequently used as a summary descriptor. And it has a straight analog to the U.S. Civil Rights movement – fighting arbitrary discrimination based on an irrelevant characteristic (gender or race). To fail to understand this means one might think the problem can die down, because the church has made an administrative decision, which should then be accepted because a majority has spoken. But majorities don’t dictate morality. And, it has also been stated that we should now be focusing on spreading the gospel instead of arguing about WO, inferring that the “gospel” is unrelated to equality or issues of God’s character. Now, a Yes vote was sought by the pro-WO contingent – but not because adherents were in favor of some policy modification, per se. It was because Yes would be in alignment with a foundational moral absolute – equality. And when a church institution votes something perceived as immoral – and likely largely based on the No voters’ understanding of God’s revealed viewpoint – then that implicates God. So, unless and until the No perspective can persuade the Yes perspective that: 1) this is not a moral question; and/or 2) God really does object to WO – the battle will continue.

· Why the intensity of an anti-WO position?

Some have charged that the Adventist global south voted No as a political muscle-flexing move. Understandably, some from these regions are highly offended by this contention. It seems plausible to me that there is some truth to this but more important is whether this was the dominant reason for delegates voting No. I doubt that it was. However, irrespective of the role politics might have played, the much more central question is what was the rationale a No voter understood themselves to be employing? And the answer also seems fairly obvious to me. A No voter believed they were being faithful to God, because no-WO is a consequence of the doctrine of Male Headship, which is understood by many Adventists to be Biblicallycorrect. Thus the No position is elevated to a moral absolute – faithfulness to God’s word.

World View Analysis

If an action is based on principle we first must have determined that the motivating principle is true. Both the Yes and No positions are being driven from principle but they are different in one substantive way – the presumed source of the knowledge. It is self-evident that there are two broad categories of where knowledge can come from. One is from God, via revelation (assuming God exists – not everyone thinks this source is available). The other is from human experience, extended by valid reasoning and the collective understanding and research of others. Science is an example of knowledge obtained this way. But so is what I might call a person’s internal moral compass, or conscience. This is how people “know” that (in general) things like killing, stealing, lying, etc. – are bad. And things like protecting children, treating others respectfully, etc. – are good. While there are many counter-examples of individuals whose moral compasses are severely broken, morality is not obtained solely from the Bible, such that, if that book didn’t exist humans would run ethically amok

It seems to me that the Yes position is grounded in this internal moral compass and its adherents would argue that the Bible is broadly consistent with the principle of equality. Thus the Headship doctrine is considered a misapplication of scripture. The No position is arguing strictly on the basis of exegesis – and ignoring or denying the validity of human experience being applicable or even existing as a potentially valid source of knowledge. In other words: “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it”. And initially, this would seem totally appropriate. After all, God is infallible. Thus the revelatory source is – by definition – superior. And I think this is exactly the line of reasoning generally used by the No position. Moreover it is correct – as far as it goes. Knowledge obtained from God is true by definition; it is humans who make mistakes.

But here is the problem that seems to be ignored or denigrated by the No group. How does one determine if we have understood the revelatory source correctly? We have the Bible but it is fallible humans who read the material and interpret it. And the history of Christianity is replete with examples of theological error. How do we know that we – error-prone humans – have interpreted the material rightly, given the sorry littered landscape of theological misunderstanding?

Humans have a problem, in fact, in justifying their knowledge claims in both categories – revelatory and experiential. It just seems, superficially, that the revelatory category is immune from error because God is down there somewhere. And there are, in fact, two types of possible error with respect to a revelatory source. First is determining if the material is actually revelation at all, and second (after the first has been settled) is correctly understanding what God wants us to know from the material. People are not born believing in the Bible (or the Koran, or the Bhagavad-Gita or whatever), they are persuaded of its truth in various ways – plus often (a big hidden reason) simply acculturated into their religion without much personal effort toward justification. Thus Bible-belief is never foundational – it is derived from somewhere else. It is quite important (but well beyond the scope of this article) to examine the ways in which people come to belief in a God-communication-source and justify their presumed knowledge. But it is sufficient here to realize that both categories of potential knowledge are filtered through fallible, limited, sinful people – us. At minimum it shouldn’t be presumed that we will do a better job of correctly interpreting revelatory material than we will do making inferences from our internal moral compass or from the external world (as science attempts to do).

It is tempting for the No viewpoint to feel they have the moral high ground because it is presumably derived from scripture and the argument in support seems clearly correct. But we often think we are right when we have worked out a position and given it some thought. That is, until something new comes along to dislodge the prior view – unless we are so positioned we will not test our belief. People are always at risk of falling into the mistake known as the Argument From Ignorance. We believe we are right because we cannot imagine how we could have gotten it wrong. Or we believe a position we reject is wrong because we cannot imagine any way for it to be true. In both cases the problem is human limitation, even though our lack of imagination in no way means our viewpoint is thereby incorrect. It just means it might be wrong because we obviously lack a God’s-eye-view. The hubris potential in the No position is that the inescapable human limitation to knowledge-justification is ignored or minimized.

The Yes view could, obviously of course, be in error also. Our moral compasses are not infallible as I have alluded to above. But in this case I think the concept of equality/fairness is deeply entrenched in everyone’s conscience-compass. And to argue that what is going on with WO has nothing to do with fairness seems quite lame, when argued on “natural” grounds. A distinction without a difference. The only argument that seems to have potential force is if God is clearly telling us something that seems to violate this sense of fairness and we either cannot see it presently (but will by-and-by) or we should purge such questions from our mind because God is God and we are not. This is the Argument From Transcendence, and it can never be totally disproven as there is always a place – by definition – where humans can no longer understand what God is doing or meaning, where transcendence is operative and we are incapable of following. The salient point here, though, is whether this argument is actually applicable. It is surely inappropriate to appeal to transcendence as a way to shut down discussion or avoid thinking hard about difficult problems.


I contend that both potential knowledge sources have fallibility risk simply because we are fallible. There can be absolute truth but we cannot know it absolutely. Thus we need checks-and-balances to avert error. Ideally we should find scripture, our internal moral compass, and evidence from the natural world and human logic – all in agreement. Unfortunately, in every “hot-button” area the church is struggling with, that agreement is somewhat lacking. It is not controversial for Christians that since God is the author of nature then revelation and evidences from nature ought to agree. So if they appear not to then it seems appropriate that we ought not to rush to judgment but move slowly and carefully, realizing one or both of our interpretive processes might be mistaken. Likewise when revelation might be understood to state something contrary to our conscience-compass. This is the conflict, I contend, that is largely occurring in the WO controversy. And people do not like ambivalence and cognitive dissonance. There often is an urgency to resolve the difficulty if for no other reason than to relieve personal “ambiguity-pain”. This is understandable, but dangerous.

Rich Hannon, a retired software engineer, is the Spectrum website Columns Editor.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones ?

Bob Dylan

Article read with interest. Thankyou Mr Hannon and Spectrum.

The groundswell of change has already well and truly gained momentum. At this time nothing will stop this momentum, not debates, symposiums and certainly not a NO vote by some people in San Antonio.

Babylon 5, Kosh : “The avalanche has already started. It is too late for the pebbles to vote.”


A thoughtful response!


This is the “I” factor. It began in Heaven and it continues here on Earth today. If we do not quit looking at what “I” want and focus on what God wants, these issues will forever plague us. Satan is happy keeping us wrapped up in this issue (along with many others), no matter how righteous they may seem. If he can keep us distracted from spreading the Three Angels’ Message by spreading the divisive message that we currently are, then he has us right where he wants us. I, for one, am through fighting these internal battles and will focus on the cosmic battle - the one that has eternal consequences for us and the world.


This is exactly what Satan wants to do.
He created the Headship Doctrine in the SDA church. (Excessive. - website editor)
This was to PREVENT the Majority of the Church [Women] from engaging in the Most Active Part of the proclamation of the Gospel.
Preaching the Word.
Spreading the Three Angel Message.
Allowed to sound the Fourth Angel Message.

It is THE MEN of the SDA church who have the “I” syndrome.
The Black Suits.
Men like Doug, Stephen and others.
THESE are the ones with the “I” syndrome.

Edit: Blaming Satan for bringing in to church thinking almost to the point of having Male Headship become a part of the “28 +1” was possibly a little strong. But anything that causes confusion in the church through discrimination and causing one part of the church to be assumed to be “less than” another part of the church membership certainly is cause to ask where those ideas originated from.


Impart, I agree with you. The spreading of the gospel and the 3 angels is more important BUT what will happen when new converts enter our divided churches? What message will they see? I believe there needs to be a balance between attending the needs of those inside the church and those outside the church. We can’t ignore one while attending the other, it just doesn’t work.

I don’t know what the solution is but I’m willing to keep discussing and getting ideas of how to solve the issues, so when others come into the church, they can see, we are Christ’s followers, and that we truly love each other as He loved and continues to love us.

Don’t lose heart. :slight_smile:


The church is not the only place to preach and reach souls and use our pastoral gifts. Let’s not be so limited. Some of us with pastoral gifts, have chosen to instead of being a pastor, to do a one on one type of ministry with people inside and outside the church.

Some women also have the “I” syndrome, I can testify to that.

If we, women, can only be commissioned pastors for now, that’s ok, we can learn to work with what we’ve got, use it to the best of our ability and continue doing God’s will and show that we are thankful and gracious for this opportunity, which was not granted to women before us. I, unfortunately, have not seen this attitude shown at all…

@niteguy2, this impart was to your comment but I also felt it could be read in a more general sense as well.

Steve, that is ridiculous. Women can do all of these things, They do not need the title of “ordained minister” to do that. None of use do. We have been give a commission of spreading the good news to the world. Lets do it and quit bellyaching because “I” don’t have what you have. Remember, many men are not ordained, but it does not prevent them for doing what God said to do.


I am sorry you feel how you do about our worthy female pastors. I doubt feeling “grateful” is on their radar at the moment. They have been told in a very public forum that their call by God is not recognized by man. That man’s opinion counts more then Gods. These women do not need advice on how to get on with their lives.


this is an interesting article, but i think it’s a bit simplistic to characterize the no-position as an argument based on exegesis, and the yes-position as an argument based on the vagueries of an internal moral compass…if the no-position is based on exegesis, it’s only because proponents say it is…in reality the no-position is based on eisegesis, where-by proponents selectively choose or discard important cultural indicators, both biblical and their own, and contort textual evidence into a pre-determined and even fabricated outcome, the result being that aspects of the no-position are in clear, flagrant contradiction to unequivocal statements in both the bible and egw, not to mention complete irreconcilability with many of our core doctrines as described by phillip brantley and others…that headship has been seriously considered as a viable, plausible approach for as long as it has is probably a marvel beyond belief…

the reality is that the yes-position is based on an exegesis that applies a much more consistent consideration of the contribution of culture, and has the advantage of coinciding completely with inspired statements ignored or contorted by the no-position…the yes-position hardly needs to take a back seat to the no-position when it comes to reliance on a revelatory source…no doubt this is why a majority of our bri, the overwhelming majority of our andrews seminary, and a clear majority of the general conference appointed tosc favored the yes-position…



I think you need to read again what I am saying. You sound really defensive here and I feel you’re missing the point to my comment. I’m not advising them to do anything.

I’m saying I have not seen or read anywhere what I mentioned in my comment. In other words, where’s the calm, soothing response from wise women, that slows down anger, hate,…etc, not intensifies it, causes people to listen, not just ignore us, and creates changes that we desire? I haven’t seen this response. I’ve seen just the opposite. That’s the best way I can put it.

But if you’ve seen it somewhere, please point it out to me. I do want to be very wrong in this case. And that’s not an easy thing for me to say.

Historic AND Sandy
It is OK if YOU both do NOT feel called to the “Ministry” by God, be you a Man or a Woman. That is OK.
BUT what YOU Historic and Sandy feel is OK for you, may not be what a person who feels called of God to be a “Minister of the Cloth” as some say, a Fully Ordained [not just a lowly Commissioned] Pastor in the SDA church.
And I believe that is where both you, Historic and Sandy, miss seeing the big picture.
Other men and women DO feel called by God, and HAVE been given the gifts for that Office, and provision should be in the SDA church for those men and women to be able to put their talents to work, and to do it with Authorization of The Church — by the laying on of hands by the members of the church.
This Authorization of The Church, for many centuries has been called Ordination.

The term “Commissioned” is a new term, a made up term, Has no relationship to Ordination.

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Why are commissioned pastors lowly?

What is the difference in duties between ordained and commissioned pastors?

So I get a general idea.

Pure love does not depend on anything. True love expects nothing in return, not seeking the pleasure. Love is an altruistic feeling, where the pleasure of giving is greater than receiving. The Torah teaches that originally man and woman were created as an androgynous unit (male and female in the same body) Di-s … After the split in two, transforming men and women into separate beings.
Thus man and woman began as a single entity, so its natural state is to be united. The love between man and woman is the result of their natural tendency to be one. When love is perfect, man and woman are like one person. That love can overcome all obstacles however difficult they may be. Neither the man nor the woman alone is “the image of God s” only if they are together. -

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@eupevicu This reads beautifully, the love part. Truly took my breath away. The Torah aspect though I don’t know about that.

But I don’t really understand what your view is. Can you maybe try to explain it, in another more concrete way? I’d like to know where you’re coming from with your comment. That’s all. Thanks. :blush:

I realize you don’t get it, but by refusing “full” ordination on women, the message is clearly that women are of lesser importance. That doesn’t bother you, apparently, which is fine, but for many women who know they have been called by God this is very painful. Some of these women have struggled mightily even just to fully realize God has called them. Humans need validation, especially from the organizations for whom they work. This is akin to the workplace practice of promoting men to higher positions, while passing over women who may even be more qualified.


Nicely done.

Just one point that I think maybe should have been made. You kind of imply that the No-WO position is based on exegetics, whereas the Yes-WO position is based on reasoning from the moral compass (from nature). Although true in a general sense, it should be stated that the Yes-WO position also has strong exegetic support, and it could be argued that the exegetic evidence against the headship doctrine is extremely strong.


I’m slowly starting to see it. So that’s why @niteguy2, sees it as lowly.

Well, in that light, I could understand the pro-WO view more clearly. You truly have the gift to teach.:blush:

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I have asked a similar question to many who oppose ordaining women in the church. Only one has so far answered clearly.

Why are men ordained if there is no need for ordination for people to be effective ministers?


I agree with many good points in this article. We are all hampered by our own biases.

The one thing that makes this issue different is that what is at stake is a fundamental issue of fairness. We all know what is fair and what is not and often these things are really not based on exegesis of a scripture. Fairness is more basic than scripture. From the time we are babies and while growing up we are constantly working with fairness in our lives. When we fight over toys, the issue is fairness. When we take extra helpings at the table the issue is fairness. Over and over again we test our actions and the actions of those around us against fairness.